Dan Feldman

Paul Pierce on Kevin Durant: ‘He may be the best player in the world today’

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No matter who wins MVP, a regular-season award, this has been the time of year LeBron James proves he’s actually the best player in the world.

He was the best player in four, maybe five, of the last NBA Finals. He deservedly won Finals MVP in 2012, 2013 and 2016. He should have won in 2015 over Andre Iguodala despite playing for the losing Cavaliers. And LeBron was a step ahead of Finals MVP for most of the 2014 series until Leonard maybe overtook him late.

But these Finals have been different through two games. LeBron has excelled. Kevin Durant has played even better, leading the Warriors to a 2-0 lead.

That led to a bold statement from Paul Pierce, analyzing the game for ESPN. Pierce on Durant:

He may be the best player in the world today.

Pierce just slighting an old rival? Perhaps. But this is also a surprisingly fair claim.

The question at hand: If you could have only one, LeBron or Durant, for tonight’s Game 3, whom would you want on your team?

LeBron has proven himself the better player over the last several years, but he looks run down. Durant is fully locked in and appears to have no shortage of energy.

In simplest terms: Durant has outplayed LeBron in the Finals’ first two games.

But that doesn’t necessarily predict future results. Just because Durant outplayed LeBron in Games 1 and 2 doesn’t mean Durant will outplay LeBron in Game 3 and beyond. The larger sample, which favors LeBron, might hold more predictive power.

And Durant benefits from playing with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. The game is easier for Durant than LeBron right now.

So back to the original question: If you could have only one, LeBron or Durant, for tonight’s Game 3, whom would you want on your team?

I don’t know – an uncertainty that shows how much trouble Cleveland is in.

Report: Bucks narrow GM search to Justin Zanik, Arturas Karnisovas, Wes Wilcox

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The big name, the trailblazer, the promotion seekers – the Bucks’ general manager search has whittled its way through a larger pool to three candidates.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Milwaukee Bucks have narrowed their search for a new general manager to three candidates, league sources told The Vertical.

Denver Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas, Atlanta Hawks ex-GM and current ownership adviser Wes Wilcox and Milwaukee assistant GM Justin Zanik have emerged after a round of interviews in New York this week, league sources said.

Karnisovas and Wilcox will travel to Milwaukee later this week for further meetings with Bucks officials, league sources said.

Zanik was presumed to assume the job when John Hammond joined the Magic. It appears he still has a chance to land it. For now, he’s serving as interim general manager.

Karnisovas is a rapid riser who was reportedly the Nets’ second choice last year, when they hired Sean Marks.

Wilcox lost power in Atlanta after a difference of opinion with then-Hawks president Mike Budenholzer, who also fell from grace in the front office.

In other words: someone moving forward, someone moving backward and someone hoping to maintain his position. It’s an interesting mix.

It’d be even more interesting if it didn’t seem Bucks coach Jason Kidd were serving as de facto general manager already.

Tyronn Lue: No lineup changes, J.R. Smith will start Game 3 of the Finals

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CLEVELAND (AP) Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says he’s not making any lineup changes for Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Despite the Cavs being down 2-0 to Golden State after being roughed up in the first two games of the series, Lue said he’s sticking with his starters, including guard J.R. Smith, who has scored just 3 points so far.

Lue is adamant if the Cavs stay with their game plan and play better they can get back in the series. One of the options for Lue was to start Iman Shumpert, who came off the bench and provided quality minutes in Game 2.

LeBron James said Cleveland will maintain its up-tempo style.

The Cavs were in a similar spot last year, when they were blown out in Games 1 and 2 by a combined 48 points before they returned home and won Game 3 and then rallied from a 3-1 deficit to their first title.

Smith says the Cavs remain confident despite Golden State’s dominance.

Report: Markelle Fultz atop Celtics’ draft board

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Markelle Fultz is talking and acting like the Celtics will draft him No. 1.

He’s probably safe.

Chad Ford of ESPN:

Fultz has been the top guy on the Celtics’ board for a while, but he’s not the only player they’re considering. Ball, De'Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are also in the mix, according to sources.

With Fultz scheduled to work out in Boston today, he can put a bow on this. The Celtics can and should continue to investigate Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum. But if Fultz is already atop Boston’s board (he’s atop most boards), it’s probably just on him not to blow his status. He’s too polished for that to be a reasonable concern. I doubt those other players can make up the necessary ground as long as Fultz checks out as advertised in his workout/meeting/medical testing.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a report soon that the Celtics intend to draft Fultz if they keep the No. 1 pick. A trade is unlikely, but they’ll probably keep that door open.

Kevin Durant bolts press conference when noisy air conditioner shakes above him (video)

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An air conditioner once foiled LeBron James in the NBA Finals.

Are they Cavaliers trying to turn the tables by taking out Kevin Durant with a faulty A.C. unit above his head?

If so, the Warriors star dashed before they could.